When Google TV arrived last year in the US, it possessed promise and potential that was never quite realised. Now Google TV 2.0 is here, armed with apps and a new content discovery system. And the search giant thinks they've got it right this time.
Google TV still revolves around the same basic concept. It is not meant as a Freeview, cable or satellite replacement, nor is it really meant to be a standalone box. It works best running on top of your existing video hardware, serving up web videos along the way. That said, Google's increased focus on delivering actual streaming TV and Movie content through apps looks exciting.
The most immediate thing Google TV users will likely notice with the upgrade is the availability of apps. Yes, this means that more video services in the vein of LoveFilm or Netflix will run natively on your Google TV. It means music services like Spotify will do the same. Eventually, Google hopes to have a deep library of TV-optimised apps that will make the Logitech and Sony boxes more functional. For now, there will only be 20 or so apps that have proper resolution and formatting, but it's possible to run most Android apps on Google TV if you really want to. And if you're worried about figuring out which apps are designed for Google TV and which ones aren't, Google says that there will be a section of the Android marketplace, which corrals all the GTV apps into one list.
Google TV runs the Honeycomb variant of Android, which was originally designed for tablets. Google opted for Honeycomb over Ice Cream Sandwich because UI issues are less of a concern given the more controlled approach Google takes with the TV platform, and Honeycomb is more battle tested than its frozen counterpart. But Google's Chris Dale expects that Google TV will run on Ice Cream Sandwich someday.
Google realises that the first iteration of Google TV didn't provide the most meaningful search results for TV and movies and videos. So this time around, when you search for something specifically — say a TV show — it will not only tell you when it's coming on TV next, but also every other service and site it is available on. But one step further, Google has introduced a new portal called TV and Movies, which focuses searches exclusively down to full TV episodes and full movies. It is working with select partners now, such as HBO in the US, and plans to work with more. The portal is open to any video streaming services that wants to make their content database available. The advantage (and vision) here is that everything is presented in a single, consistent interface, and you won't have to launch a multiple apps to access content from multiple services.
YouTube, and web video in general, aren't exactly living-room friendly. Google TV's keepers say they've retooled YouTube to provide a better 10-foot-experience. Before, if you watched a video clip, it would stop and force you to actively load another video. In the new Google TV, another related video will automatically begin playing when the previous video finishes. It will continue to do so until you actively navigate to another video. Services such as Hulu in the US have used this concept to success, and it's nice to see Google doing the same, especially with all the rumors swiriling around.
Google says that the Google TV 2.0 update will first hit compatible Sony devices on October 30, and that the update for the Logitech Revue will follow "shortly after". Will the Google TV update cure all that ails the platform? That remains to be seen. But it's evident that Google has listened to the gripes of those using Google TV devices and have at least made an effort to improve it. [Google]